9 September 2009

Dilemma of flying

With the Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen just three months away, we will be focussing some of our blogs on this very important issue.

Today, we are focussing on air travel. Headlines on the BBC today warned that emissions would have to be cut by 90 per cent by 2050 to compensate for the increasing emissions of airplanes. Why? Because this means of travel is becoming increasingly cheaper and accessible to more people, especially in the less developed countries of the world, and secondly, carbon kicked out of engines at altitude is far more damaging than that at ground level. Hopefully this means that plans for the proposed new runway at Heathrow will be kicked into touch. I also heard a very sensible suggestion that we should do away with domestic short haul flights. I have never understood the desire to travel for 40 mins by plane, with all the hassle and cost of airport parking, security checks and delays, when you can jump on the much improved rail network and travel in reasonable comfort to one's destination. Doing away with the really short, unecessary flights, say between London and Birmingham, or even London to Paris would go some way to reducing emissions.

I was reading the newsletter of one of our contributing photographers, Peter Cairns, regarding air travel and the dilemma facing the environmental and wildlife photographer. I quote, "Photographers have an annoying habit of justifying their extravagant global travel by claiming that their endeavours will somehow save the planet. To be fair, a small minority are helping to do exactly that, but in the main we go where we want to, when we want to ... just like everyone else. If photographers are really going to initiate behavioural change, they (and I include myself) might care to take a look in the mirror now and then." [see http://www.northshots.com/imagemonth.asp]

I know I think long and hard before travelling. I'm off to New York next month for Picturehouse NY, and the only way to get there is by plane. For me, I justified it as it was the first and only flight I will make this year. However, I have carried out a carbon audit with the World Land Trust and will be offsetting our carbon emissions.

On a brighter note, the incoming Japanese prime minister has announced that he wants to cut Japan's emissions by 25% by 2020 - thats a good start and puts the pressure on the rest of the world. Now I'd like to see some measurable targets - for example, to see the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere come down to 350 ppm, or to replace x number of coal-fired power stations with nuclear power plants etc.

To see a selection of images on climate change from Ecoscene, click on this URL: http://www.ecoscene2.captureweb.co.uk/lbshow.php?lightboxid=8581505383044

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